Thursday, May 25, 2017

Spirit Game: Pride of a Nation

Everyone readily concedes the game of lacrosse was invented by the Haudenosaunee, also referred to as the Iroquois and Six Nations. However, it seems like Canadians will go out of their way to take credit for indoor “box lacrosse.” It’s the same basic rules and equipment, but with a roof. Wow, how did they ever come up with that? Not surprisingly, the Iroquois (as their jerseys self-identify) and Canadian national teams are natural rivals in World Indoor Lacrosse Championship (WLIC) competitions. Peter Spirer and Peter Baxter chronicle the development of the Iroquois national team and their bid for glory at the 2015 WLIC tournament in Spirit Game: Pride of a Nation, which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

Iroquois homes throughout Upstate New York and Ontario are just like their neighbors, except there very well might be a lacrosse goal in the backyard. The game has always been a source of national pride, so it is not surprising the Iroquois are disproportionately represented among professional lacrosse players. Still, when WLIC decided to recognize the Iroquois national team, it was obviously a hugely significant decision.

It was also a big deal when the Haudenosaunee hosted the 2015 tourney (at the Syracuse stadium). Unfortunately, the Iroquois missed the previous championship, because the UK refused to recognize their tribal passports and the Iroquois refused to travel under official U.S. documents. When acting as hosts, they made it clear they hoped each team would go through the ceremony of having their passports stamped at the tribal offices. We’re pleased to report the American and Israeli teams were happy to oblige, with the proper spirit. In fact, the only team to snub the passport ritual was Team Canada.

Lacrosse is a fast-paced, action-packed game, but it does not get a heck of a lot of sports media attention, so it is fascinating to watch a behind-the-scenes peak into tournament play, especially from the underdog perspective of the Iroquois. Although scrupulously multicultural in their approach, Spirer and Baxter mostly take a straight-forward reportorial approach, with one notable exception. They really, really seem to dislike Dean French, the arrogant chairman of the Canadian national team, because they do their best to make him look like a fool and a blowhard. Towards that end, they get no shortage of assistance from Dean French, the tone-deaf chairman of the Canadian national team.

Arguably, the film veers a little too far out of bounds when it focused on attempts of Haudenosaunee leaders to start a dialogue with Pope Francis of the “Doctrine of Discovery” during his visit to America. Not surprisingly, Spirit Game is much more effective as a sports doc than as another piece of advocacy journalism. Recommended for sports fans of all WLIC member nations, except Canada, Spirit Game: Pride of a Nation opens this Friday (5/26) in Los Angeles, at the Arena Cinelounge Sunset Park.

Armored (2009)

New guy at an armored car company gets talked into becoming involved in an armored car heist by his fellow drivers in order to score some quick cash. The problem is that they really don't have much of a plan and when complications arise things turn deadly.

Fast moving popcorn action film has a great deal going with it. First off the film is under 90 minutes so the film doesn't really have the time to bog down in plot. It cranks everything up and just goes. Next the film has some great action sequences so one moves towards the edge of ones seat. Lastly the film has a stellar cast that include Matt Dillon, Jean Reno and Lawrence Fishburne. Its a first rate cast that sells and covers over the stories short comings.

This isn't brain surgery its a popcorn movie and on that level it scores highly. Worth a look.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Long Strange Trip: The Grateful Dead in Four Hours

The Grateful Dead were an anomaly. They were hippies with work ethics. While the band was intact, they played an estimated 2,350 live gigs—an officially recognized Guinness World’s Record. Of course, that life on the road took a toll. The surviving band members look back on the music and the entire madcap phenomenon in Amir Bar-Lev’s four-hour documentary-palooza Long Strange Trip, which opens this Friday in New York.

The Grateful Dead was one of the few bands whose members even casual listeners could name—at least as far as lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, and maybe percussionist Mickey Hart. The true blues could also easily rattle off the names of bassist Phil Lesh, drummer Bill Kreutmann, and the late keyboarder player, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. The Dead were unusual in many ways, one being they considered their regular lyricists John Perry Barlow and Robert Hunter to be members of the band. They processed a rich gumbo of styles, including bluegrass from Garcia, jazz and avant-garde music from Lesh, and the blues from McKernan, synthesizing it into the original rock & roll jam band.

As Joe Smith, the former president of Warner Bros. Records readily attests, marketing the undisciplined Dead was a challenge in the early days. They racked up an enormous debt to the label by using their initial recording sessions as tutorials in studio production techniques. Of course, it is easy for him to look back and laugh, given the money the label made on the more stripped-down, Americana-influenced Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty albums. In fact, it is rather interesting to watch Long Strange and PBS’s American Epic in short succession.

Inevitably, The Dead decided they were much more of a live band than a recording act. Essentially, they subscribed to a jazz-like ethos that every set should be different, with no predetermined set lists. Yet, the very unpredictability and in-the-moment nature of Dead shows gave rise to a culture of bootleg “Tapers,” who religiously documented every set, eventually with the band’s officially blessing.

Initially, Long Strange is a bit unfocused, but the film locks in when the band really starts to establish its identity. Frankly, the participating band alumni (including Barlow and back-up singer Donna Jane Godchaux) are all quite forthcoming about the band’s excesses and tragedies. Weir and his co-founding members admit they let McKernan feel too isolated within the band. They tried not to make the same mistake with Garcia in the mid-1990s, but it seems the iconic musician just didn’t want to be helped. However, when it comes to from-the-hip reminiscing, nobody can top the Dead’s former road manager, Sam Cutler. He was only with the band during the years of 1970-1974, but what long, strange years they were.

In fact, Bar-Lev consistently exposes the darkness lurking just below the hippy-dippy Deadhead experience. Frankly, much of the film serves as a cautionary warning against drug abuse and the increasingly intrusive idolatry of fans. He also gets a rare glimpse of the notoriously interview-averse Hunter, but no sound-bites.

At four hours and two minutes, Long Strange runs about half an hour longer than executive producer Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison: Living in the Material World. Yet, jazz fans will be frustrated Bar-Lev never found time for Ornette Coleman, Merl Saunders, and Bruce Hornsby, all of whom notably collaborated with the band. It also seems strange he left out the Dead’s involvement with The New Twilight Zone, because it would have fit nicely with Garcia’s fascination with the Universal Frankenstein movies, which Bar-Lev uses as a recurring motif.

Still, the film has a good handle on what made the Dead and their music so successful. It vividly evokes the tenor of their successive eras, without idealizing any of them. Bar-Lev really makes the case they were the quintessential American rock band of the Twentieth Century. Recommended for serious Deadheads and causal listeners curious enough to invest four hours, Long Strange Trip opens this Friday (5/26) in New York, at the IFC Center.

Apocalypto (2006)

Epic adventure on a grand scale. Mad Mel has made a great adventure film, who's subtitles will keep away a core audience.(Though I guess the idea of the vernacular coming from Indians would have been laughable) The plot has an Indian village raided by the Mayan city. The survivors are carted off for sacrifice (though Jaguar paws wife and children successfully hide in a well.) In the city that are brought to the temple for sacrifice but when they aren't needed, they are "turned loose" and used as moving targets. Jaguar Paw escapes and his flight becomes a fight to elude his pursuers and to get back to his family.

Its violent, but thats the nature of the story and not necessarily a condemnation of the Maya.(Anyone taking offense at the portrayals of the society should keep in mind this is a look at the city on one day at one brief moment of time) While bits of the story have been been there done that (Naked Prey?), the characters and the sense of place and being somewhere for the first time short circuit any real notion of cliché.

This is grand story telling that was a good reason to get to bed really late

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Women's Balcony (2016)



When the women's balcony at the local temple collapses injuring the rabbi's wife the community is left is chaos. The rabbi is heartbroken so there is no one to either lead the prayers nor over see the restoration of their spiritual home. Soon everything seems to be fine when a young rabbi agrees to step in, however his ultra orthodox ways collide with the more liberal ways of the congregation leading to culture clash when the women are pushed out of the temple.

While some of the big details may not ring true for all religions or cultures, this charming comedy drama survives in the small details that echo across cultures, from something as simple as a label stuck on a new dress to the boy at the center of the "tragedy" saying it's all his fault since he wanted a way out, to the funny way the human heart works and pretty much every thing else THE WOMEN"S BALCONY is a sweet little film. This a story about people and we are all the same even if the names are different.

I don't know what else to tell you other than this small little gem of a film is definitely worth your time and money

Monday, May 22, 2017

Joshua: Teenager vs Superpower hits Netflix and theaters Friday

With JOSHUA: TEENAGER VS SUPERPOWER starting on Netflix and in theaters Friday  I'm reposting JB's review from Sundance


A teenager should not feel personally responsible for saving his homeland’s values and way of life, but this is the role Joshua Wong has voluntarily assumed. As the founder of the student activist society Scholarism, Wong has challenged the Mainland Communist Party’s plans to impose Party indoctrination in Hong Kong schools and its relentless efforts to undermine the “One China Two Systems” promise of HK democracy. Viewers will see what genuine democracy protests look like and how perilously high the stakes can in Joe Piscatella’s documentary Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower, which screens during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

To promote obedience, the Education Bureau of Hong Kong proposed, at the Mainland Party’s behest, the ominous sounding Moral and National Education (MNE) curriculum, which was essentially Communist propaganda combined with criticisms of democratic forms of government. In response, the not quite fifteen-year-old Wong founded Scholarism and began coordinating a campaign of protests and outreach. Rather remarkably, the Mainland’s dedicated servant HK Chief Executive CY Leung gave a bit of ground, making the MNE curriculum voluntary, at each school’s discretion.

Ironically, the partial MNE victory may have given Wong and Scholarism too much faith the Mainland’s political puppets would listen to reason when presented with the overwhelming will of the people. Tragically, that would not be the case during the 2014 Umbrella Protests.

To say the Western media’s coverage of the 2014 demonstrations was inadequate would be a gross understatement. Frankly, Piscatella’s documentary is crucially valuable just for its lucid step-by-step chronicle of the Umbrella movement—so named because the demonstrators (the vast majority of whom were high school and college students) deployed umbrellas to combat police tear gas. For 79 days, the students hung tough—and when the police shock troops started using military-style tactics against them, the normally rail-thin Wong launched a dangerous hunger strike.

As in Chan Tze-woon’s more verite (but equally valuable) Yellowing, the one thing that immediately strikes viewers of Teenager is just how shockingly young Wong and his Scholarism colleagues look. Both films will make you wish you could travel back in time to the Admiralty and Mong Kok to protect them. What is nearly as significant in Teenager is how explicitly and ardently Wong and his classmates identify as Hong Kongers, not Chinese.

Piscatella follows a pretty standard documentary playbook, utilizing media footage and talking head interviews. However, many of his commentators are unusually insightful and honest in their analysis, such as the journalist who describes the current Beijing-Leung strategy as the shrinkage of One China-Two Systems to One China-1.9 Systems and then to 1.8 Systems, and so on.

Even though everyone really ought to know how the Umbrella Demonstrations turned out, viewers will still get caught up in Teenager’s narrative. It is a highly compelling, emotionally involving film by any standards. There is no false optimism, but Piscatella leaves the audience with some hope, once Wong explains how he and his fellow activists have learned from the mistakes of 2014. If you want to protest, protest Xi Jinping and CY Leung (frankly, this film could very well be why the festival was hacked). If you want to see a great doc, make every effort to see Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower when it theater screens  and Netflix starting Friday

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Nightcap 5/21/17 The Philip K Dick Film Festival starts Thursday and Randi's links

The Philip K Dick Film Festival starts Thursday and runs through the holiday weekend at various locations through the Holiday weekend. It’s a lot of mind bending films that are sure to get your grey cells churning. I’m still working out coverage- there are panels I want to attend- so check back to see what we’ve managed to see.

To get tickets and for more information go here
---
Randi's links

comic collages
Stock Footage :Comic Industry
Batman Dept of Labor Stock Footage
Star Wars Toy commercials
Vintage Lego Commercial
AARDOCS | FEATURES | EPISODE 2 | SERIES 2
Board Games come to life
Dare to Be Different Premiere photos
David Hasselhoff raps
Work it
Dirty Sock Fun TIme Band
Custom Lego

Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan

RESTLESS CREATURE is a portrait of ballerina Wendy Whalen, who after30 years with the New York City Ballet decides to call it quits and move on.  We watch as she deals with the damage her body has suffered, she plans her farewell and tries to figure out what to do next.

One of the best of the flood of  recent ballet related docs, RESTLESS CREATURE is a portrait of a woman trying to figure out where life is going to take her. Beautifully filmed is a rare bird in ballet films  which not only makes a non-ballet fan understand not only how good Whalen is but also appreciate the dancing. I can't tell you how many dance films I see where  the director keeps everything so inside that unless you're a fan going in you won't have a clue as to what is going on. That is not the case here and directors Adam Schlesinger and Linda Saffire have made a film that has me wanting to go see Whalen dance when she comes to town.

I don't know what to say other than I highly recommend the film when it opens in theaters starting May 24th in New York and June 9th in LA.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Anamorph (2008)

Willem Dafoe is a troubled detective who is now teaching at the police academy. Years earlier he helped solve a series of murders that were laid out like works of art...especially when seen from a specific location. When a frisky couple knock into a door in their building they unknowingly step into a crime scene that once again has echoes to the earlier case. Dafoe is called in to take a look and it soon becomes clear that the killer is intent on bringing him into his ghoulish works or art.

I want to say this is Saw for the art set, but its not quite that. To be certain the murders are gruesome and very clever, but this film aspires to be more than a catalog of death and destruction. For the most part this is a good little thriller about a troubled man searching for a unique killer that he doesn't want to deal with since its opening too many doors he wants to keep closed (Dafoe's character is an odd duck. Points to the filmmakers for giving us a very odd man for a central character). For most of its running time I really enjoyed the film. The problem for me was that the ending didn't really come together. The film ends but it isn't really resolved, which considering how it ends makes sense but left this viewer (and my dad) going, thats it? It was a disappointment.

The real question is is the film worth seeing? Actually yes. The murders are unique and the film keeps Dafoe's character is worth seeing. I don't know if I had paid 11 bucks to see this on the big screen I would have been so forgiving, but on IFC in Theaters on cable it was worth the time.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Angels and Demons (2009)

Based on the book that precedes The DaVinci Code this film follows Robert Langdon as he tries to sort out an evil plot that involves the kidnap and murder of four Cardinals and plot to blow up the Vatican via an anti matter explosion. Once more Langdon has scant hours to unlock the secrets of the mystery and save the lives of the people in Rome.

I really disliked the Da Vinci Code. I found it slow and dull and very silly. This is a better movie that is fast paced, occasionally exciting and very silly.

Okay if you think about the amount of time that they have to unlock the secret of whats going on you'll find its really not possible. Basically all of the events happen in four or five hours and its not enough time. Add to it the fact that what the plot requires is so incredibly laughable that you really can't believe it. I have no doubt that this would work as a book where words can be used to gloss over or redirect the silliness of it all, but as a movie where its stark reality you really can't hide how dumb much of it is. So many times all that needed to happen was for one person to say something obvious then it would all collapse.(I won't even get into the fact that you'd have to be blind not to realize who the bad guy is the minute he walks on screen)

That said its a reasonably enjoyable film.I know that may shock you but there is enough to the story that you may very well get hooked into the tale. Certainly most of the set pieces work unto themselves (with the exception of the incident with the cops and the fountain). There are some incredibly beautiful images (the nature of which I dare not reveal lest I reveal plot points). When the film works and you manage not to think about how dumb much of plot is its actually worth a bucket of popcorn. I and my dad both enjoyed the film on a pure entertainment level. That said I didn't need to pay 11 bucks to see this and think either DVD or cable is the way to go.

KIEF DAVIDSON’S BENDING THE ARC TO OPEN GREENWICH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

NEW YORK, NY (May 4, 2017) - The Greenwich International Film Festival is proud to announce the full film slate and programming for the 3rd annual festival running June 1st- -4th, 2017 in Greenwich, Connecticut. BENDING THE ARC, a documentary about the extraordinary team of doctors and activists whose work thirty years ago to save lives in a rural Haitian village grew into a global battle in the halls of power for the right to health for all, directed by Kief Davidson and Pedro Kos, will open the festival on June 2nd with a special Town Hall Panel Q&A moderated by Barbara Pierce Bush with Ophelia Dahl (Partners in Health), writer/producer Cori Stern, Joia Mukherjee (Partners in Health), and Rifat Latifi M.D. from Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) to discuss the state of global healthcare.

WMCHealth is the presenting sponsor of the opening night film, Bending the Arc and Q&A discussion following the screening.

Other highlights of the festival weekend include:

The Changemaker Awards honoring Christy Turlington Burns for her work with Every Mother Counts and Renee Zellweger for her leadership and support in the search for a cure for ALS.
A performance by Flo Rida at the opening night party on Friday, June 2nd.

The Social Impact Awards with a jury chaired by Actress, Activist and Humanitarian Sophia Bush.
LIVE FROM CONNECTICUT: A Discussion with Saturday Night Live Writers to be moderated by Lorne Manley of The New York Times. Presented by GIFF in partnership with First Republic and WGA-E.

PRODUCING SPORTS: ESPN 30 for 30’s Mike and The Mad Dog screening followed by an insightful panel with sports entertainment leaders Connor Schell, Mark Teixeira, Kyle Martino and moderator in sports Ryen Russillo.

“The Film Review: An Inside Look At the Responsibility of a Film Critic,” moderated by Joe Meyers of the Connecticut Post, featuring Alison Wilmore (Buzzfeed), Richard Lawson (Vanity Fair) and Marshall Fine (General Manager, NYFCC)

“Women Driving ROI Panel in the Film Marketplace,” sponsored by J.P. Morgan.featuring Suzanne Farwell, Producer (Carrie Pilby, It’s Complicated, the Intern, Something’s Gotta Give) and Susan Cartsonis, Producer (The DUFF, Where the Heart Is, What Women Want) and Moderated by: Ruth Ann Harnisch (Lead Investor, Superlative Films, Executive Producer, The Hunting Ground, Unrest).
A Captain Underpants book signing by Dav Pilkey and screening of DreamWorks Animation’s CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE on Thursday, June 1st at 5:00pm.

Post-screening conversations will include a panel on rape culture and sexual assault following the Centerpiece showing of Jessica Thompson’s THE LIGHT OF THE MOON on Saturday, June 3 at 1:00pm at Bow Tie Cinemas in Greenwich. Participating in the Q&A will be Jessica Thompson, film producer Carlos Velayo, lead actress Stephanie Beatriz, and Peg Cafferty (producer, India’s Daughter).

Film highlights including: Centerpiece film, Phillip Baribeau’s CHARGED: THE EDUARDO GARCIA STORY on June 3rd, at 6:30pm at Bow Tie Cinemas in Greenwich. Sophia Kruz’s LITTLE STONES on June 2nd at 3:00pm at Cole Auditorium at Greenwich Library. Beach Rats on June 3rd, at 8:45pm at Bow Tie Cinemas in Greenwich. Dina on June 3rd at 6:15pm at Bow Tie Cinemas in Greenwich. Blame on June 3rd at 3:45pm at Bow Tie Cinemas in Greenwich. Bobbi Jene on June 2nd at 3:30pm at Bow Tie Cinemas in Greenwich. Writer/director Brett Haley’s THE HERO starring Sam Elliot, Nick Offerman and Krysten Ritter on June 3rd at 4:30pm at Bow Tie Cinemas in Greenwich. The Connecticut Shorts Program on June 3 at 3:00pm at Bow Tie Cinemas in Greenwich showcases short films that were either shot in Connecticut or made by a filmmaker from Connecticut. This new category will celebrate local film talent and the beautiful State of Connecticut.

As previously announced, the 3rd annual Changemaker Gala will take place on Thursday, June 1, 2017. The Changemaker Awards honor artists who have used their public platform and the power of film to further positive social change. This year, Renée Zellweger and Christy Turlington Burns, will be honored for their humanitarian work with ALS and Every Mother Counts, respectively. The June 1st Changemaker event, presented by CuisinArt Resorts & Residences and ALS FindingACure, will include a cocktail reception at Betteridge followed by a black tie dinner at L’Escale in Greenwich, CT

Actress, Activist and Humanitarian, Sophia Bush will present the Best Social Impact Film Award at Opening Night Party on Friday June 2nd. This prize will be awarded to one film across all categories that promotes social change and awareness. The films in competition for The Social Impact Prize will be determined by the GIFF team, awarded by the Jury and the prize will have a cash value of $10,000.00 USD. The Social Impact Jury is comprised of actors, activists, philanthropists, and entertainment professionals. The award will be presented to the winning director, during an awards ceremony, where he or she will be presented with a trophy and receive a check.

The Festival will host a special performance open to the public by Flo Rida on Friday, June 2nd. Tickets will go on sale Friday, May 5th, 2017 and will be available for purchase at greenwichfilm.org.

About The Greenwich International Film Festival
Greenwich International Film Festival (GIFF) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that hosts a world-class film festival in Greenwich, CT. The goal of the Festival is to bridge the worlds of film, finance and philanthropy. The third annual Festival will take place June 1st – 4th, 2017, has a social impact focus, and will benefit charity partners with proceeds. The four-day event will feature a star-studded Opening Night Party, film premieres, engaging panels, a Changemaker Honoree Gala, and more. For additional information, please visit www.greenwichfilm.org.

About Westchester Medical Center Health Network
The Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) is a 1,700-bed healthcare system headquartered in Valhalla, New York, with 10 hospitals on eight campuses spanning 6,200 square miles of the Hudson Valley. WMCHealth employs more than 12,000 people and has nearly 3,000 attending physicians. From Level 1, Level 2 and Pediatric Trauma Centers, the region’s only acute care children’s hospital, an academic medical center, several community hospitals, dozens of specialized institutes and centers, skilled nursing, assisted living facilities, homecare services and one of the largest mental health systems in New York State, today WMCHealth is the pre-eminent provider of integrated healthcare in the Hudson Valley. For more information about WMCHealth, visit www.WMCHealth.org

***

The following panels will take place during the festival.

LIGHTHOUSE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FULL 2017 LINEUP

Festival opens ninth year with KING OF PEKING, screens a stunning 27 features and 55 short films, premieres episodic content and VR component

May 18, 2017 (Long Beach Island, NJ) — The Lighthouse International Film Festival (LIFF) has announced the complete lineup for its ninth annual event, which will take place June 8-11, 2017 on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. The festival will open with Sam Voutas’ acclaimed KING OF PEKING, a rousing Beijing-set love letter to cinema that brought cheering audiences to their feet at Tribeca 2017.

“From the opening frames of KING OF PEKING, I knew that it was special and a film that the LIFF audience will love,” says Lighthouse International Film Festival’s Eric Johnson. “Sam Voutas has made a film that speaks to cinephiles in a unique way, filled with moments that show film’s ability to act as a universal bond, while also telling a terrific story with a ton of heart and laughs. It is punctuated by pitch-perfect turns from his actors and it all comes together to form a sublime way to kick off the 2017 festival. We are thrilled to champion the emergence of one of the most exciting young directors working today by opening with KING OF PEKING.”

KING OF PEKING will open LIFF on June 8th at Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences in Loveladies, NJ, with director Sam Voutas participating in a Q&A following the screening.

LIFF will again present both Documentary and Narrative Centerpiece Films, including Jonathan Olshefski’s QUEST as Documentary Centerpiece. A vérité portrait of a North Philadelphia family that was shot over the course of a decade, it tells the tale of Christopher “Quest” Rainey, along with his wife Christine (aka “Ma Quest”). They open the door to their home music studio, which serves as a creative sanctuary from the strife that grips their neighborhood. Over the years, the family evolves as everyday life brings a mix of joy and unexpected crisis. Set against the backdrop of a country now in turmoil, the film is a tender depiction of an American family whose journey is a profound testament to love, healing and hope. QUEST will screen at The Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences on June 10th.

The Festival’s Narrative Centerpiece film is FITS AND STARTS, the feature directorial debut of Laura Terruso. The acclaimed comedy stars The Daily Show’s Wyatt Cenac as a struggling writer who has been toiling away at the same novel for years. His wife (Jennifer Greta Lee) is a hot young literary figure, who has just released a new masterpiece. When her publisher invites the couple to an artists’ salon at his home in Connecticut, the pair embark on a twisted journey, and David must face his demons and try to “not be weird” among the waspy salon guests and competitive art set in attendance. He encounters a dentist with publishing aspirations, a book critic full of condescending advice, a fellow writer who may know his wife a little too well, an old “friend” and a high powered bipolar literary agent who just might be able to help him... for a price. FITS AND STARTS will screen on June 9th at The Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences, with Laura Terruso in attendance for a Q&A after the film.

Closing the 2017 Festival will be MISSING IN EUROPE, director Tamar Halpern’s tense new thriller about a cyber security expert visiting Serbia under the guise of attending a conference for work, but is really there to check in on her daughter, Karissa, who has been studying abroad. Their happy reunion is cut short when Karissa and her classmate Lara go clubbing and seemingly disappear into thin air. Sara is certain that her daughter has been abducted. Utilizing a host of hacking skills and following the clues Karissa is leaving behind, she starts to uncover a major sex trafficking ring. Even worse, it seems the local police force is in on it. With nobody to trust but herself, Sara uses every tool at her disposal to locate her daughter before she’s sold to the highest bidder and disappears forever. MISSING IN EUROPE will screen at The Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences on June 11th, with director Tamar Halpern on hand for a Q&A afterward.

The Lighthouse International Film Festival is also proud to announce the inclusion of Sundance Jury Winner DINA, the World Premiere of New Jersey-lensed THE OYSTER FARMERS, the Ugandan Wakaliwood actioner BAD BLACK, and its first-ever VR content. Alongside Lighthouse’s thrilling first foray into episodic content - Onur Tukel’s highly-anticipated BLACK MAGIC FOR WHITE BOYS - the festival will also be bringing back its immensely successful “Write By the Beach”, last year’s debut writers’ retreat program for female filmmakers and screenwriters. Designed with a simple mission to foster female voices in independent film, the program will see the Festival bring four female filmmakers and screenwriters to Long Beach Island for a week leading up to and including the Festival, with no obligation except to put work into whatever project they are currently developing. The 2017 Write By The Beach recipient writers will be announced later in May.

Additional talent attending the festival’s 2017 edition include Angela Anderson and Corrine Gray Ruff (THE OYSTER FARMERS), Jody Lambert (BRAVE NEW JERSEY), Lara Stolman (SWIM TEAM), Michael Borowiec and Sam Marine (MAN UNDERGROUND), Michael Clayton (THE DUNNING MAN), Onur Tukel (BLACK MAGIC FOR WHITE BOYS), Rachel Shuman (ONE OCTOBER), Rotem Zissman-Cohen (actress, OUR FATHER), Sandra Luckow (THAT WAY MADNESS LIES), Victoria Negri (GOLD STAR), and Will Rogers (actor, A BAD IDEA GONE WRONG).

Inspired by the historic Barnegat Lighthouse, which has beckoned travelers to LBI since 1859, LIFF has emerged as New Jersey’s leading international film festival. The festival will feature award-winning films from countries around the world, as well as nightly parties and panel discussions.

For full schedule and ticket information on the 2017 festival, visit www.lighthousefilmfestival.org.

OPENING NIGHT FILM
King of Peking, Sam Voutas, China

NARRATIVE CENTERPIECE FILM
Fits and Starts, Laura Terruso, USA

DOCUMENTARY CENTERPIECE FILM
Quest, Jonathan Olshefski, USA

CLOSING NIGHT FILM
Missing in Europe, Tamar Halopern, USA

SPOTLIGHT FILMS

Bad Black, Nabwana I.G.G., Uganda
Dina, Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini, USA
Gaza Surf Club, Philip Gnadt and Mickey Yamine, Germany
Infinity Baby, Bob Byington, USA
The Journey, Nick Hamm, UK
Person to Person, Dustin Guy Defa, USA
The Road Movie, Dimitrii Kalashnikov, Belarus/Russia/Serbia/Bosnia & Herzegovina/Croatia

THE LOWER EAST SIDE FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES OPENING AND CLOSING NIGHT FILMS ALONGSIDE COMPLETE 2017 FESTIVAL LINEUP

The seventh annual LESFF, June 8th-15th, 2017, invites all New Yorkers to experience innovative films and specialty nights such as ‘Comedy Night’ presented by Showtime, ‘Mind F*ck Night’, Ladies’ Night Short Films, and more throughout the 8 day festival- plus free wine + beer at all events.

New York, NY -- May 17, 2017 -- The Lower East Side Film Festival directors are proud to announce the festival’s seventh annual opening and closing night films along with the complete festival schedule. Opening Night will feature Michael Angarano’s Avenues on June 8th and Closing Night will feature Aaron Feldman’s Poop Talk as well as Ali Weinsten’s Mermaids on June 15th. The LESFF celebrates the work of creative, up and coming filmmakers, and showcases their films in the heart of NYC’s Lower East Side. Additionally, this year’s schedule features specialty nights, specific to the New York culture and what the city currently loves. This year’s festival judges include Sasheer Zamata (SNL), Jeremy Allen White (Shameless), cinematographer Sam Levy (Frances Ha, Mistress America), Stephen Schneider (Broad City) and Paola Mendoza, Documentary Filmmaker and Artistic Director of The Women’s March, among others.

Specialty nights include, among others, ‘Comedy Night’ presented by SHOWTIME® with a comedy shorts, a premiere of the first two episodes of the new SHOWTIME drama series I’m Dying Up Here, and live standup from Sasheer Zamata (SNL), Judah Friedlander (30 Rock), Jena Friedman (Daily Show with Jon Stewart) and more.‘Mind F*ck Night’ includes short films that festival programmers promise will f*ck with your mind. Ladies’ Night is a series of shorts with strong female characters.

The Opening Night Film will be the New York Premiere of Michael Angarano’s directorial debut film, Avenues, at Sunshine Cinema, June 8th at 8pm. The film stars Michael Angarano himself (The Knick), Nicholas Braun (How To Be Single), Juno Temple (The Dark Knight Rises), Adelaide Clemens (The Great Gatsby), Ari Graynor (Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist) and Maya Kazan (Frances Ha). Written and directed by Angarano, and produced by Michael Sherman, Matthew Perniciaro, Michael Angarano, Elyse Seiden and Jonah Quickmire Pettigrew.

Avenues tells the story of when Peter (Nicholas Braun) arrives in Manhattan to visit his best friend Max (Michael Angarano) and the two go out for a day on the town, hitting the tourist spots and all the while hilariously working through the baggage of their friendship. When they meet two young women, day spills into night and takes an unexpected turn. Angarano creates a portrait of contemporary New York City in his directorial debut that harkens back to the classics of the 1970s and is alive to new possibilities.

The Closing Night Films are: Poop Talk, a World Premiere, and Mermaids, a US Premiere. Closing Night will take place on June 15th at Sunshine Cinema at 6:30pm and 8:30pm, respectively.

Poop Talk is directed by Aaron Feldman and the film’s Executive Producers are Jason and Randy Sklar. The film stars comedians Paul Provenza, Adam Carolla, Nikki Glaser, Paul Scheer, Beth Hoyt, Pete Holmes, Eric Stonestreet and Nick Swardson, as well as media personality Dr. Drew Pinsky, among others. Poop Talk is an uncensored sharing of tales of the taboo that connects us all. We all do it but no one talks about it … or do we? Through the lens of 50 comedians and experts, Poop Talk is an authentic and hysterical exploration into how we as a society deal with poop and what that reveals about who we are.

To close out the 7th Annual fest, Mermaids is directed by Ali Weinstein and produced by Caitlin Durlak with Executive Producer Ronn Mann. A feature documentary about the powerful allure of a universal myth, Mermaids immerses audiences in a world where fantasies come to life. Following the stories of five extraordinary tail-donning women who are part of a growing “mermaiding” subculture, audiences voyage between mermaid theme parks, conventions, tail-making studios, and deep into the ocean where transforming into the empowered icon of the mermaid is possible.

The full 2017 Lower East Film Festival Schedule is as follows:

Thursday, June 8th: Opening Night
Opening Night Film, 8pm, Sunshine Cinema: Avenues
Opening Night Party Presented by Vimeo, 10pm, DROM

Friday, June 9th:
The Filmmaker Reception + Ice Cream Social, 7pm, MEET on Bowery
25th Anniversary Screening of Home Alone 2 + Christmas Party, 11:59pm, Sunshine Cinema

Saturday, June 10th: Comedy Night Presented by Showtime
Showtime Presents: Comedy Shorts, 7pm, Sunshine Cinema: Accomplice, Perfect Roast Potatoes, Bombing, Shy Guys
Showtime Presents: I’m Dying Up Here, 8pm, Sunshine Cinema: Episodes 1 & 2
Showtime Presents - The LESFF LIVE Stand Up Special, 10pm, Subculture: Performers include Sasheer Zamata (SNL), Judah Friedlander (30 Rock), Sergio Chicon, Jena Friedman (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), Matteo Lane (Late Night With Seth Meyers, MTV’s Girl Code). Hosted by Kerry Coddett (The Nightly Show)

Sunday, June 11th:
Feature Film (Documentary), 6pm, Sunshine Cinema: Kosher Love

Monday, June 12th:
Ladies’ Night Shorts Showcase (where Feminists pay $16, and Non-Feminists pay $8,632 to adjust for the median annual earnings difference between men and women), 7pm, Sunshine Cinema: Fry Day, JessZilla, Smile, Kiss Me, Reflections
Ladies’ Night Feature Film, 8pm, Sunshine Cinema: What Children Do
‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ Shorts Showcase, 9pm, Sunshine Cinema: Tav Falco: Make Me Know You’re Mine, Kojo: A Short Documentary, Soy Yo, Sunday Saxon, Mixtape Marauders

Tuesday, June 13th:
‘Writing The Documentary Screenplay Panel’ with The Writers Guild of America East, 6pm, Sunshine Cinema: Panelists include David Riker (Dirty Wars), Sarah Burns (The Central Park Five), Jeremy Chilnick (Rats, Greatest Movie Ever Sold), Nelson George (Hip-Hop Evolution, A Ballerina's Tale) and Moderated by: Michael Winship (President of WGAE)
NY Filmmaker Shorts, 7pm, Sunshine Cinema: Food City: Feast Of Five Boroughs, I Choose You, White Face, Kojo: A Short Documentary
Feature Film (Documentary), 8pm, Sunshine Cinema: NANA
“Queer Shorts: Best of NewFest," with NewFest: New York’s LGBT Film & Media Arts Organization, 9pm Sunshine Cinema

Wednesday, June 14th:
‘Mind F*CK’ Shorts, 7pm, Sunshine Cinema: Fluffernutter, Staycation, Pizza Face, There Are Too Many of These Crows, Sunday Saxon, Everything’s Gonna Be OK, Birdhouse
Feature Film, 8pm, Sunshine Cinema: Sweet Parents
‘Under Pressure’ Shorts, 9pm, Sunshine Cinema: The Accomplice, Fry Day, Story 304, Mariner, Jailbreak, It’s Been Like A Year

Thursday, June 15th: Closing Night
Closing Night Feature Film (Documentary), 6:30pm, Sunshine Cinema: Poop Talk
Closing Night Feature Film (Documentary), 8:30pm, Sunshine Cinema: Mermaids
Closing Night Party, 9:00pm: Libation

For tickets and more information go here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Becoming Bond: The Lazenby Affair

If George Lazenby had re-upped with the James Bond franchise producers, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would probably be remembered as the best Bond movie ever. It featured Telly Savalas as Blofeld, Diana Rigg from the Avengers and Joanna Lumley from The New Avengers as Bond Girls, and Louis Armstrong’s final chart-topping hurrah, “We Have All the Time in the World” as the theme song. Yet, Lazenby didn’t, so now he is known as the one-and-done Bond. Arguably, it was the worst case of career self-destruction in movie history. However, Lazenby spins it as well as he can in Josh Greenbaum’s documentary profile, Becoming Bond, which releases on Hulu this Saturday.

Lazenby is happy to admit to Greenbaum he was just a working-class bloke in Australia, who only came to England in pursuit of Belinda, the great love of his life. After a bit of scuffling, he fell into a successful modeling career. Unfortunately, he succumbed to the temptation represented by his female counterparts, thereby sabotaging his relationship with Belinda yet again. Frankly, the newly single Lazenby pursued a lifestyle that would make James Bond look like a celibate Trappist. He managed to catch the eye of an agent who arranged meetings with the director and co-producer of the first non-Connery Bond film, Peter Hunt and Harry Saltzman, which turned out to be dates with destiny.

So, what happened? Contrary to popular belief, Majesty’s Secret Service was a huge hit. Lazenby was offered a huge contract for six more Bond pictures, but he turned it down, for reasons he still has trouble explaining today. It is fair to say he chafed at some of the contractual controls they wanted to exert over his career, but frankly he obviously could have used their guidance.

Greenbaum’s novel approach intersperses close-up interview segments of Lazenby dishing on his notorious life with dramatized vignettes, in which actors play the Aussie Bond and the major figures revolving around him. It keeps things rather lively and certainly gives us a taste of the wild times. The only drawback is Josh Lawson, who is far too sleight of stature for the broad shouldered Lazenby. In contrast, Jeff Garlin and the ageless Jane Seymour are both quite scene-stealing scenery-chewing riots as Saltzman and Lazenby’s vampy agent Maggie.

Still, it is rather striking (and ultimately quite poignant) how much time Lazenby and Greenbaum devote to Belinda, the one who kept getting away. In fact, Becoming Bond starts out as an ironic pop culture documentary and evolves into a bittersweet love story. Fear not Bond fans, there are still plenty of juicy behind-the-scenes details.

Indeed, Bond is the focus of Becoming Bond, because it is the association that defines Lazenby’s career. However, it seems strange Greenbaum omits Lazenby’s stint with Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest. He was supposed to team up with Bruce Lee, but the martial arts legend died before their scheduled lunch meeting. Instead, Lazenby made the awesome Stoner with Angela Mao Ying and the fan favorite Man from Hong Kong with Jimmy Wang Yu. There have to be some crazy stories from that time, but did Greenbaum think to sign Lazenby for a sequel? Regardless, it is quite entertaining to hear the forgotten Bond have his say. Recommended for all James Bond fans and anyone who enjoys movie-making gossip, Becoming Bond starts streaming this Saturday (5/20) on Hulu.

Alien Uprising

Ship full of marines with one civilian are sent to a far off prison planet to find out what happened to the people on the planet and to stop the explosion of nuclear power plane which could destroy the interstellar jump gates.

Well written and decently acted scifi story is sunk by a no budget approach that results in too cheap sets and costumes (its cardboard and cast offs). To be certain the cast manages to sell the story as much as possible,but at the same time the sets and props are so poor that watching this is a tough haul. Honestly this looks like what I was doing back in my film-making salad days in high school. Personally I'm bothered that the budget for the film didn't exist because had there been some money, any money, this might have been the sort of film that ends up in a rotation on cable TV. As it stands now the film will only be seen by those who stumble upon it painfully unaware that their rental was more than the entire budget for the film. If you can be very very forgiving of the lack of money and want to see a space opera that could have been better I recommend the film. If you can't deal with card board sets and cut corners stay away.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Help keep Sinister Cinema going

In a weird way Sinister Cinema is directly responsible for Unseen Films. That may sound like hyperbole but it is to some degree true. Because Greg Luce and his company made a wide variety of off the beaten track films available to my deranged mind I fell in love with all sorts of films I might never have seen.

Sinister is a direct mail company specializing in genre films (horror, science fiction, mystery, western films). They have been responsible for putting out the best quality prints of many of the low budget films that used to fill the late night slots on TV. They are largely responsible for making sure that many classic and not so classic B films could be seen in the best way possible.

I have been dealing with Sinister probably since they started some 33 years ago. I used to give my mom the list of films and she’d order them. Once I got my own credit card I started to do the ordering for myself. The result is that a large portion of the thousand titles in my film collection are from the company. If you’ve been reading Unseen for any amount of time you’ve read reviews of dozens of films that I saw because of Sinister.

Sinister is perhaps my most favorite place to get movies anywhere in the world.

And it was with a touch of sadness that I read in the current catalog that after a multi-decade run Sinister may be closing up shop. The market is changing, and the audience is shifting (or in some cases such as westerns simply dying off.) It was a realization that hit me later than many other Sinister customers because when the catalog came during the Tribeca madness and I didn’t read it until yesterday- but now that I have I want to cry and scream “no please don’t go!” Of course that won’t happen, but I’d like to delay it as long as possible.

In the hope that I can help prevent Sinister from going away I’d like to ask that you all go to the site and buy something- or many things (They are running their killer customer appreciation sale which will get you tons of stuff cheaply).

Why should you buy stuff from Sinister? A couple of reasons…

First if you take the time to go through their catalog you are going to find films you won’t find anywhere else. Seriously Sinister has hundreds of titles you won’t find anywhere else. Many films like the Soviet scifi films ROBOTS OF RIPLEY and COMIC VOYAGE are only available from them with English subtitles.

Second the prints Luce and his crew put out are more often than not the best you can find. They search out the most complete prints I can find. I can attest to this since in dealing with Sinister for the last 3 decades for thousands of films I’ve only found one print that was shorter than another. You cannot find better copies of the films they offer.

Please do yourself a favor- go to the Sinister site and look around- really look around. If you look around I know you are going to find films you’ll want to see. Trust me.

Please go look and go buy and help keep Sinister Cinema going for another 33 years. Please help me make it impossible for Greg Luce to retire.

Thank you.

Wajda’s Afterimage

Few film directors were as well qualified to address the intersection of art and politics as Andrzej Wajda. For decades, he was bedeviled by Communist censorship, but in 1989 he was elected to the Polish Senate as a member of Solidarity. Wajda would later help found the Polish Museum of Communism to document and preserve the truth about the Communist era. It was a mission that also motivated many of Wajda’s late career masterworks. Unlike Wajda, Constructivist painter and modern art theoretician Władysław Strzemiński unfortunately did not survive the state’s campaign against him and the insufficiently ideological style of art he represented. Fittingly, Strzemiński is the subject of Wajda’s final, masterful film Afterimage, which opens this Friday in New York.

Strzemiński was a double-amputee war veteran, but he lost his arm and leg during the First World War, which did not quite have the political cachet granted to the Great Patriotic War under the new Socialist regime. Nevertheless, he still painted prolifically and became a force within the Polish art world. He was a leading faculty member in the Łodz art academy later renamed in his honor and designed the Neoplastic Room, a gallery within the Museum Sztuki showcasing modernist art of the 1920s and 1930s, including the sculpture of his ex-wife Katarzyna Kobro. Even though Strzemiński had once been a revolutionary firebrand, he took a dim view of any attempt to impose ideology on art, most definitely including Socialist Realism.

Consequently, the State deliberately set out to crush Strzemiński, despite his popularity with his students and his international prominence. Initially, the artist assumes the authorities’ belligerence will quickly blow over, but his situation grows dire when he is dismissed from the Lodz academy and blackballed from other means of employment. He is not even allowed to purchase art supplies after the artists’ union expels him. To further compound the tragedy, Strzemiński finds himself the sole support of his pre-teen daughter after her mother Kobro succumbs to a long illness.

It is easy to see how Wajda would identify with Strzemiński. Although he is closely associated with the so-called “Cinema of Moral Concern,” Wajda predated the movement by decades. He produced his first documentary shorts during the early 1950s, the final years of Strzemiński’s life. He was witness to those times and films like Afterimage are his testimony.

Indeed, Wajda and screenwriter Andrzej Mularczyk do not sugar-coat any aspect of his life-story, least of all the ruthlessness of the Party apparatus brought to bear against him. Nor do they try to install Strzemiński as a Constructivist saint. The lead performance of Bogusław Linda (the dollmaker in Dekalog: Seven) is acutely human and deeply nuanced. Strzemiński very definitely has an “artistic temperament.” He can be brusque and self-centered, but he also has a high capacity for empathy and a genuine passion for art. In no possible way can Linda’s Strzemiński be reduced to a catch-all cliché, but that is exactly what the Party set out to do.

Young Bronisława Zamachowska is also quite remarkable as Strzemiński’s not quite estranged daughter Nika, displaying maturity beyond her years in her scenes with Linda. She projects real grit and sensitivity, so it is a heavy moment when Strzemiński remarks to a student she will have a hard life because of him.

Rather appropriately, Afterimage is also a film of powerful visuals, from the huge banner of Stalin blocking the light into Strzemiński’s flat to the skewed perspective on his ironic death scene. This is Wajda’s final film, but it is not an awkward swan song. Throughout every frame, his skill and artistry are just as sharp as ever and his passion for truth and freedom remain undiminished. It is another major film from arguably the single most important filmmaker of our lifetimes. Very highly recommended, Afterimage opens this Friday (5/19) in New York, at the Lincoln Plaza.

The Survivalist (2015) hits theaters friday

This is a repost of the review from Tribeca 2015. 

I am rerunning the review with out changes because I can't really argue with what I said about the film but at the same time despite it being a negative review I do think you may want to try it. That may sound a bit daft but consider the film has remained in my mind since I saw it, as well as in the mind of most writers who I know who also saw it at Tribeca. Some of them loved it some of them didn't but everyone keeps bringing the film up as a benchmark in post apocalyptic cinema. Like it or not you'll know you've seen something.

Last year the winning film at Tribeca was a post apocalyptic HERE ALONE, a fact which confuses everyone I know who has seen the film, even it's biggest fans. Everyone I know much prefers the SURVIVALIST to that film simply because what is in it rings more true. Some times you need to see a mistake to know when someone got something right.

I still have a lot of issues with the SURVIVALIST, I wouldn't be running the original review if I didn't, but I do think that the film is worth seeing. There is something here that makes the film hang with you. It is a film that some two years on is still being debated by the people who saw it which is not something that you can say about the vast majority of other so called better films.

Despite my reservations do try the film.

After the collapse of society thanks to over population and declining resources a man tends his small garden in the middle of the forest. There is a just enough food produced for him. Things become complicated when an older woman and her daughter show up wanting to barter food. Against his better judgement the man lets the women in and thus begins a series of games between the man and the two interlopers.

While there is much to like about the SURVIVALIST, there is also much that makes it a tough slog. The reaction to the film at the screening I attended was all over the place with the result that the film sparked long conversations that lasted past the next film screened and in my case continued on the subway with a fellow writer I met in the subway.

The performances are first rate. Everyone pretty much gives it their all. The world largely looks lived in and broken down. There are also some very good sequences, in particular the sequence in the field where the man hunts the girl and the other man who kidnapped her. Everyone mentions this one crane shot which is absolutely amazing.

Unfortunately the film has some problems that keep the film from being something that I can truly like.

For me the first problem is the staging of the the entire sequence prior to the arrival of the women. Shot so as to give us a sense of life in the woods we get long sequences of the man going through several days. Its so detailed that I thought to myself that we'd seen everything he does with the exception of him masturbating-only to have it occur-graphically-a minute or two later. I disconnected at that point, not because I'm a prude, simply because the film felt it was going to be too day in the life.

In retrospect I do find it odd that we see the man masturbate but that we don't see any sex between the man and the girl. Why is that? Actually why is the first half of the film graphic and the second less so?

The next problem is that the world the film operates in doesn't work. Clues in the dialog talk about things being bad for at least seven years, which would be possible, except that when the women appear they are neat and clean, something no one else in the film is. There are snippets of dialog that give clues to the outside world but the lines seem tossed off and don't carry weight because we simply don't know anything.

Thinking about it part of the problem is that there is very little dialog. No one talks much with the result that we simply don't know anything... or enough. Doesn't anyone talk except to be part of some plot? If you think about it most of the dialog is between the mother and daughter plotting, or is some line that directly relates to the action. There is no stray line, no comment that doesn't serve a purpose. No one talks. All of this might have worked had the film not brought in the roving bands or the ending...

...and speaking of the ending. The final sequence is truly pretentious. There is an implication that the girl knows the deal with settlement but why is that? Why is everyone so nonchalant that this stranger is walking outside the wire? Its a weird moment that doesn't really play really, especially at the moment where it cuts out- I mean why a pregnancy conversation when there is no way the guard could know that.

Honestly looking over my notes I realize I could pick the film's internal logic apart, but that's not fair
since the film feels less like a movie and more like a high brow novel with pretensions in it's head. Things don't happen organically they happen because they are supposed to mean something.

They do mean something- you're boring you're core audience which isn't going to sit for the pretentious meaning of the events that transpire on the screen.

Honestly I don't hate the film but I don't need to see it again

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Abacus: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL (2016)

I know Nate Hood reviewed this back during the NYFF, but I had a review done and I don't want it to go to waste so now that the film hits theaters Friday here my thoughts.

As a former frequent traveler through New York’s Chinatown I was well aware of the Abacus bank. It seemed like it was on every corner. That’s not the case, but it does make clear that the bank is clearly part of the life of that New York community. However when the Manhattan DA decided to go after the bank for bad loans it came as kind of shock. The bank was never like the other guys, it was and is family for many people.

And so it was that in an age of too big to fail the Manhattan DA decided to go after someone he thought he could take down and look like he was keeping everyone safe. Never mind that he couldn’t prove that the “corruption” was more than a couple of bad guys, particularly the prosecution’s lead witness who couldn’t stop telling lies, even on the witness stand, he was going to go for the kill.

Coming in as the case was heading to trial, legendary filmmaker Steve James waded into to fray and documented everything. Talking to everyone involved with the case, except the prosecution witnesses who lied under oath, James lays out the case beautifully, to the point where you wonder why the DA pursued the case when it was clear that the bank itself wasn’t to blame.

James film is a solid piece of reporting. It plays like, what it is, a solid FRONTLINE documentary. It’s a great piece about an injustice that in retrospect seems obvious. Of course when people believe what people have their own agenda or want to stay out of jail bad things happen. (Iraq war anyone).

While the film is excellent, the film is probably the least film that Steve James has done. As a man who has given us banquet movies such as HOOP DREAMS, ABACUS is a tasty after dinner snack. It may be perfectly prepared but compared to the filmmakers other delights it seems a little light. That doesn’t mean that the film is bad (absolutely not) it’s just not as detailed as I would have liked (say some sign of the women’s families other than the odd reference).

Definitely worth a look.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Kings Betrayal is on VOD


I saw this last year at the Oxford film Festival and laughed my ass off---now it's on VOD and Amazon Video
The life of a pinata from the pinata's POV.
Its as funny and as Twisted as the synopsis makes it out to be. Its really wrong-REALLY wrong, but damn it's funny